My mom has this expression that I just love. Whenever we would hear on the news about this percent of people dying of such and such disease or that such & such increases your risk of dying by whatever percent - she would kinda laugh and say “Well guess what? 100% of people die!” I’m pretty sure I’ve adopted her pragmatic view of death. We’re all gonna die someday so there’s not much point getting all worked up about it, or scared, or go to insane lengths to avoid it. Neither of us have a death wish. We wear our seat-belts and go to the doctor and make sure there’s a non-slip mat in the shower. But she’s made it clear that if she were ever really sick or injured she wouldn’t want to be kept on life support indefinitely… and neither would I. Now she has a firm belief in an afterlife… and if there is a heaven I know she’s earned her place. Even though I’m less sure of what happens after we die, I am comfortable with the idea of the great sleep, of my existence finally coming to an end (hopefully not anytime soon – there are plenty more things I’d like to do first!) and decomposing back into the earth – pushing up daisies – oooh or daffodils! Well, actually I’d rather be buried at sea… but still the idea of ashes to ashes is something I can deal with.
It seems to me that we live in a culture where death is feared and to be avoided at ANY cost. Doctors come up with painful and invasive ways of diagnosing and treating diseases. People whose natural lives should, by all rights, be over linger on with feeding tubes and life support machines. To me – that’s not life! (eta - I was watching this show on PBS where they kept talking about ways to avoid "premature death" as though somehow we were all entitled to live to be 80-90-100 if only we consume enough omega-6 fatty acids and avoid refined carbohydrates - it just bugged me.)
I can understand it more when people go to extraordinary lengths to extend the life of an infant or child… because in a child there is so much potential for life to be lived. But what I can’t condone are the numerous lawsuits parents have filed when doctors were unable to miraculously save a child born with serious life-threatening defects. Yes, gross negligence should be punished… but once the child is dead and gone, all the money in the world won’t bring them back.
I think we’ve lost sight of the time when the leading cause of death for women was childbirth, and when more women than not had lost at least one child in infancy. Of course I’m thrilled that’s no longer the case. But it seems like these days we’re meant to believe that if the stick turns blue – you’re guaranteed a healthy baby. And if, heaven forbid, that’s not the case – well clearly it’s something the mother did wrong… too much caffeine, not enough folic acid, too old, too active, whatever, whatever. It’s like we refuse to accept that sometimes these things; terrible, sad, tragic things, just happen. Sometimes babies die and it’s nobody’s fault. I can’t even imagine how horrible it is for the mother (or father for that matter). But it happens… death is a part of life… and I admire the courage of women who have experienced this and have talked about their reality of it. Because it feels very much like we’re not supposed to talk about such things.
And as much as it concerns me – our inability to come to terms with our own mortality, it’s nothing, not even close to how disturbed I am by what people are willing to do to keep their PETS alive! I love my Sally-girl dearly, I do. I spend disturbing amounts of money on her care & feeding to manage her allergies. But if she ever got really sick, or life-threateningly injured – I would let her go. I’m sure I would spend several days before and after crying my eyes out… but I would have the vet euthanize her if she could no longer live her (rather pampered I must say) normal kitty life. I’m also not about to confine her to the apartment to keep her safe from whatever dangers (real or imagined) exist in the outdoor world. If she got hit by a car – I’d be sad, I’d cry, in the shock of it I’d probably be mad at the person driving the car… but I know that it’s a possibility… it’s a risk. But that’s what life is – it’s a risk.
We can live our lives in safe little boxes, doing everything we can to prevent or forestall death, pretending that somehow we can avoid it… but that’s hardly living. I should know – I’m living in one of those safe little boxes right now – and honestly it’s boring as hell. Of course I’m not suggesting anyone take up smoking or playing in traffic. But maybe we all need just a healthy appreciation for the fact that we’re going to die someday, and learn to live a little. (BTW - if you do learn to live a little – please tell me how. I’ve dealt with my fear of death but haven’t quite dealt with my fear of life!)
Oh yeah… I’ve talked about death… now taxes. Hmm… I still haven’t done them. Even though my financial situation is about as uncomplicated as they get and I’m pretty sure I’ll be getting a refund, I’m completely unmotivated to do the paperwork. Maybe I won’t do it this year. What’s the worst that could happen?
They don’t call me Rebel for nothing.
Actually yes they do...
Don’t worry – I’ll file my tax return…eventually.